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A visit to the Omega Manufactures. Part II: Bienne.

amanico
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After the technical aspects discussed in Part I with the visit of the Manufacture in Saint Imier, we went to Bienne. 

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There, we could see how the watches are totally assembled, controlled and packaged, but  don't expect pictures, as photos are not allowed. 

A lot of processes are made by robots, and we saw them working, but humans are still present, at the key stages. 

But I had a secret hope, when coming to Bienne... I prayed to be authorized by the Omega Museum to take pictures of some of their treasures. And... They kindly allowed me to do so! 

The Museum:

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And THE display I wanted to see... 

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The pieces I wanted to take in pictures were the Speedmaster Alaska Prototype Type 1 and Type 2, the Seamaster Plo Prof " Janus " Type 1 and 2, and the Railmaster CK 2777-2 White. 

Let's start with the Speedmaster Alaska Prototype MK 1. 

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Made in 1969, in a very small series of prototypes, Omega offered it to the NASA, who  didn't want it. 

The 46 mm titanium case is huge, thick and even bigger with its characteristic red heat  shield, and when you see it in the real, you start to understand why the NASA preferred something more conventional for the missions. 

The movement is not original, as it is the Cal 861 housed in other Speedmasters. 

I could find the reference of that watch: 5-003. 

So, Omega came back three years after, in 1972, with a more conventional Speedmaster, the reference 145 022, using the well known lyre lugs case, 42 mm big, with an originality: The steel case is sandblasted.

Here with its red shield:

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The movement is the same than the first prototype, the Cal 861.

Here again, the prototypes didn't convince the NASA, and this watch was not in production, till 2008... When Omega decided to release a limited re edition  we well know, now. 

Without its red shield: 

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I really love this dial and set of hands at the point it is, for me, an absolute grail.

Now, let's see another sea snake, a Railmaster which unchained the passions, the reference CK 2777-2. 

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Some very serious collectors and vintage Omega experts mentioned it, especially on our site. Here is Bill Sohne's review, for example: 


This watch is born in 1955 / 1956, was made in a very small batch, at the point some think it is the prototype of the legendary Railmaster CK 2914, born in 1957.

The chances you see one in the real life are close to zero, so it was an honor to take pictures of this one! 

The movement is the manual winding Cal 283. The case size is 37 mm, so 1, 5 mm smaller than the CK 2914. 

Now come the Pro Prof Seamaster 600 and 1000... 

These 2 are special. An old advertisement explains the story behind the watch:

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Have a close look at the right side of the Plo Prof 600... Can you see " Comex " engraved ? 

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It was used by the Comex during the Janus Mission by the Comex between 1969 and 1972. 

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As for the 1000 meters, it has an incredible look, pushing the aesthetical limits of the Plo Prof 600 farther, if it was possible, ever. I've been told by the Museum that it was made circa 1974.

Its specificity? It is a quartz watch! 

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There were several other vintage watches which were worth being taken in pictures, but we were too short of time, as we had our last part of this day dedicated to watches from the current collection. 

Let's start by a Speedmaster, as it is a line of watches which is very dear to Omega, it seems... 

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Here is one from this year, the Apollo 8 " Dark Side of the Moon " which comes with a ceramic case and an open dial with some elements of decoration reproducing the surface of the moon.

The official picture:

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A view on the dial, out of the case: 

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Another particularity is that the tachymeter scale and the top of the crown are filled with Luminova. 

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Another Speedmaster I could finally take in picture is the CK 2998 Black and White which was also unveiled this year. A very good looking version, I must say. 

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I will come back to it later, with pictures of the Sedna Gold version and the Steel Blue. 

I am not a Speedmaster fan, even if two modern are very appealing to me, and, I would also well see myself adding a vintage one. I must say that I don't get the point to see so many iterations of this model, even if it certainly is iconic, each year. Since the beginning of this year, how many do we have? 4, 5, 6? More? 

Personally, I find that too much... 

BUT... I found my Star of the Year, in the new Omega collection. 

One I still have to see in the flesh, but I already have goose bumps when I saw it in picture, the Seamaster Olympic Collection in platinum with its black enamel dial: 

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Which also exists in white gold, with a white enamel dial: 

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AND the revelation... The Seamaster 1948... I should use the plural, as there are two models: One with the big seconds, the other with the small seconds, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of this reference. 

Side by side pictures, from Omega, first: 

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The case has the same diameter for the big and the small seconds, 38 mm, but a tad higher for the small seconds ( 11, 20 mm / 11, 65 mm ).

You will notice some differences in the dial layout ( longer indices  and Dauphine hands  for the big seconds, Leaf shaped  hands for the small seconds version. The minute indices are centered on the big seconds, too. The wording is not located at the same place, either. 

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AND... The big seconds version is the only one to get luminous hands and indices ( at the base of the slim applied indices ). 

The Central Seconds: 

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The small seconds: 

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A superb presence on the wrist, with a shot taken from the Balcony of the Manufacture: 

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The movements are the Cal 8806 for the big seconds, and the Cal 8804 for the small seconds, with a shorter power reserve for the big seconds ( 55 hours / 60 hours ). 

In both cases, they have a see through case back. 

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I fell in love with both of these versions, with a slight preference for the big seconds, but I much prefer the long leaf shaped hands, as I find the Dauphine way too short. This is the only flaw I find on these two models, even if I would have preferred a slimmer case. 

Saying that this trip made me discover Omega is exaggerated, as I know some of their vintage, and a few modern pieces. Still, I could much better measure the importance of this brand, in the vintage and modern collections, and the passionate people behind it. 

I could also learn much more about the co axial movement, which was very interesting. 

I would not end my article without thanking the Omega Team for their warm welcome, their availability, and the great moments we had. 

Looking forward to reading your comments ad thoughts. 

Best,

Nicolas


Comments:
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reintitan November 1st, 2018-03:30
Thanks for sharing my friend Like you I love that white-dialed Railmaster. In essence it a Railmaster version of the military-issue Thin and Fat Arrow Omega which was made for the RAF for only one year: 1953. The Thin/Fat Arrow and this white Railmaster even share the same movement, ... 
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amanico November 1st, 2018-03:40
Yes, you are right about the second hand of the Seamaster Central Seconds. The press file picture shows a shorter one. I took pictures of the proto.  
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reintitan November 1st, 2018-03:43
Did you take home the one you were wearing? :-) What's awesome about these dress Seamasters is that they are also resistant to magnetism up to >15,000 Gauss just like the sports models. Thanks for the clarification on the seconds hand as well. That long one looks too unbalanced.
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amanico November 1st, 2018-03:45
Yes they are resistant to 15, 000 gauss, too. You did right to point that detail. They will be available, if I got it well, at the end of this year. I am very tempted by one of these two Seamaster, I must say. Which one, I still don't know, but I will probably go for one. Best, my friend. Nicolas
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reintitan November 1st, 2018-03:55
My favorite is the small seconds version. With that antimag rating plus 60m water resistance it would make a great daily wearer. I also got an email from Omega CH saying they would be available this December.
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amanico November 1st, 2018-04:04
If the Central seconds had the leaf hands of the Small Seconds, it would have been my favorite... Yes, I got it well, December is what they said about availability.  
M4 November 1st, 2018-05:56
Outstanding report Nico. Lots to digest in there. I'll definitely be spending some time studying the report and various pieces. I've never owned an Omega . . . and that needs to change Thanks a lot. M4
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amanico November 1st, 2018-09:00
Omega is a very interesting brand, with several iconic models, in both the vintage and modern worlds. Yes, you should consider some... Thanks for your feedback, M4.  
mynewemailaccount November 1st, 2018-12:20
Another really interesting post Thanks yet again for another terrific report. I enjoyed Part 1 and this is just as good. Congratulations on the superb photographs as well. Kind regards, Bob S
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amanico November 1st, 2018-12:24
Happy to read that you enjoyed it. Thanks, Bob.  
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